Earth Summit: 'Historic Milestone' or 'Big Circus'?

By Marc Morano | July 7, 2008 | 8:12 PM EDT

( - Tens of thousands of people, at a cost of more than $50 million, are about to descend on Johannesburg, South Africa to address United Nations-sponsored treaties dealing with climate change and eco-friendly development.

Ironically, the 60,000 people attending the United Nations World Summit on Sustainable Development are projected to create the same amount of pollution during the ten days of the summit as nearly half a million Africans do during the course of an entire year.

The items scheduled to be addressed in Johannesburg between Aug. 26-Sept. 4 include climate change, efforts to control greenhouse gas emissions, the so-called theory of "sustainable development," endangered species protection, deforestation, environmental racism, food distribution, world sanitation issues and population concerns.

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan recently sent world leaders a letter strongly encouraging their active participation at the summit in Johannesburg.

"Your presence would send a strong message of global solidarity and signal commitment at the highest level to a sustainable future for all," the Secretary-General wrote.

At least 106 world leaders are expected to attend the summit. However, President George Bush has opted not to attend. He is sending a U.S. delegation led by Secretary of State Colin Powell, instead.

Hollywood has inserted itself into the summit as well, with actor Leonardo DiCaprio calling the U.S. the world's "biggest polluter" and chastising Bush for not attending.

"Mr. Bush, we're asking for your support, to be the president that looks towards the future," DiCaprio said earlier this month at a rally organized by Global Green USA, an affiliate of Green Cross International.

According to summit officials, the event's total budget is estimated at $55 million, of which the South African government is expected to contribute $20 million. The official summit will be held at the Sandton Convention Center and there are over 600 parallel events planned at other locations around Johannesburg.

Earth Summit to Produce Pollution

Even participants of the summit, through their airline flights, ground transportation and hotel waste, will contribute to the pollution problems, according to the British company Future Forests. The company is working with the U.N. to help offset what it estimates will be nearly 500,000 tons of carbon dioxide produced at the summit.

The U.N. and Future Forests have devised a system to help offset the increased emissions by turning to solar power and various other energy saving methods.

'A Big Circus'

David Rothbard, president of the non-profit Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT), a free market advocacy group, is skeptical of the summit.

"These mega summits tend to be a big circus designed to whip up public sentiment about a whole host of environmental crisis," Rothbard told

Rothbard, who is attending the summit, said the goal of the greens is "not to protect the environment, it is to use the environment as a scare tactic to advance a political and social agenda."

Rothbard's biggest concern is the implementation of Agenda 21, the environmental community and the U.N.'s concept of sustainable development that was adopted by more than 150 nations at the last Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 1992.

Sustainable development is generally defined as economic and social development that is achieved in ways considered environmentally friendly.

Rothbard sees the reality of sustainable development, as defined by the U.N. and the global environmental coalition, as detrimental to human activity on the planet.

"[Environmentalists] view people as pollution and they completely reject credible science on a whole host of green issues ranging from global warming to bio-diversity to air and water quality," Rothbard explained

"If they were really interested in protecting the environment, then they would be interested in advancing prosperity on behalf of developing nations, but everything they are doing would kill development," he added.

Rothbard maintains that, "Free markets and political and economic liberty is the key to prosperity for people and nature."

'Historic Milestone'

Jacob Scherr, director of international programs at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is viewing the upcoming summit with optimism.

"This will be extraordinarily important, indeed an historic milestone in 30 years of the global environment movement," Scherr said.

"The purpose of Johannesburg is to bring the world together ... and get down to earth and start acting on [environmental] problems," he said.

Scherr believes that "protection of the environment is absolutely critical to meeting the needs of the people and ensuring economic development."

Despite his concern that freedom-eroding measures might emerge from the summit, Rothbard said he has a hunch that not much will be achieved at the summit.

"I am hoping that as often happens at these U.N. meetings, there will be a lot of discussion, a lot of debate and very little accomplished," Rothbard said.

See Related Story:

Environmentalists Link West Nile Virus to Global Warming

E-mail a news tip to Marc Morano.

Send a Letter to the Editor about this article.